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Lunar Themed Coins Popular with Modern Collectors

Lunar Themed Coins Popular with Modern Collectors
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Posted: 10-23-2018 07:55:00 AM

February 5, 2019 marks the Chinese New Year and also the start of the Year of the Pig. A variety of different Lunar-themed pieces have been issued by the world’s mints, including both bullion and commemorative coins in silver, gold, and other metals.  

Lunar Themed Coins Popular with Modern Collectors

February 5, 2019 marks the Chinese New Year, China’s most important traditional festival and also the start of the Year of the Pig, which will run for one year until January 25, 2020. 

The pig is the 12th animal in the Chinese Lunar calendar believed to have begun around 2600 B.C. and is related to the worship of animals in Chinese culture.  According to legend, Buddha asked every animal on the planet to comfort him before he departed for the next life.  Only twelve animals responded, and to honor their fealty they became the basis for the Lunar calendar used in China to this day.

People born in specific Lunar years are believed to have certain personality traits and characteristics that are related to their lunar animal sign, similar to the Western zodiac calendar based on 12 months instead of 12 years.    

People born in the Year of the Pig think logically and can fix whatever problem they're in. They are honest, loyal, sincere, and generous and are often wealthy.  On the other hand, pigs are often naïve, gullible, sluggish, and ill-tempered.

Famous people born in the year of the pig include comedian Lucille Ball, writer Ernest Hemmingway, and former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

Lunar Coins

World coins based on the Chinese Lunar calendar that depict the 12 animals are extremely popular with collectors not just in China and Asia, where they are frequently given as gifts for the Chinese New Year, but also by people all over the world. 

This theme is also the largest ongoing numismatic program on the planet.  Some people like to collect coins that depict their own Lunar animal because of its personal connection to them, while many others collect entire series of all 12 lunar coins issued by one mint or by multiple mints. The coins are also prized because of the huge variety of sizes, shapes, colors, finishes, etc. represented on these coins. Also, certain animals tend to be more popular in the Lunar coin program such as dragons and dogs.

Over the past 40 years, a dazzling array of different Lunar-themed pieces have been issued by the world’s mints, including both bullion and commemorative coins in silver, gold, and other metals, from numerous private and national mints. 

Some of the mints that produce ongoing Lunar coin programs include several of the world’s top mints such as the Royal Canadian Mint, the Perth Mint, the People’s Bank of China, the Royal Mint, and so many others, including especially many countries of the British Commonwealth.

Year of the Pig Coins

The Australian Perth Mint’s Lunar coins are perhaps the best-known ones and include the popular 1 oz. silver and gold bullion coins with mintage limited respectively to 300,000 and 30,000 that sell-out at the mint quickly.  These coins are prized for their legal tender status, guaranteed weight and purity, and beautiful designs.

The reverse of each 2019 silver pig from Perth coin features a representation of a domesticated or pet pig, designed by Aleysha Howarth, along with four piglets, amid stylized foliage. The Chinese character for ‘pig’ and the inscription ‘Year of the Pig’ appear in the design with The Perth Mint’s traditional ‘P’ mintmark.  The Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of Her Majesty appears on the obverse.

No mintage limit applies to the 1 kilo, 10oz, 5oz, 2oz and 1/2oz silver coins. Except for the 1 kilo release, production of these coins will close at the end of 2019 when the Perth Mint will declare each coin's official mintage.

As for the gold pigs from Perth, the reverse of each coin features a representation of a domesticated or pet pig, amid stylized rocks and foliage including a peony flower. The Chinese character for ‘pig’ and the inscription ‘Year of the Pig’ also appear in the design with The Perth Mint’s traditional ‘P’ mintmark.  The Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth appears on the obverse.

In addition to the 1 oz gold piece, there are 1 kilo, 10 oz, 2 oz, ½ oz, ¼ oz, 1/10th oz and 1/20th oz coins with no mintage limit, but production ceases at the end of 2019.

In addition, the mint also strikes collector versions of these coins such as proofs, colored, gilded, and other varieties that will be released in the coming months.  The 3-coin silver proof set with a 2 oz. coin that is only sold in the set, plus the 1 oz and ½ oz proof, are one of the most popular items with lunar collectors.

Another reason why the Perth Lunar coins are so widely collected is that many past issues of different sizes have very low mintages or exist in graded examples in very small quantities. 

In September 2019 the Perth Mint will launch its Year of the Rat 2020 coins, which will be the first of the mint’s Series III Lunar coins, the start of another exciting 12-year cycle.

MCM also has a wide range of other pig issues, including the sixth release in the Royal Mint’s Lunar bullion series known as the Shengxiao Collection, which depicts on its reverse a sow suckling several little piglets as well as the Royal Canadian Mint’s scalloped pig coin. 

Other Lunar pig releases from various mints will be coming later.

Dogs and Roosters

It is typically hard to find coins from previous lunar years, but MCM still has available a number of coins for the Year of the Dog 2018 Dog Lunar coins are very popular because of the animal’s status asman’s best-friend and most beloved pet.

These coins, in addition to the coins from the Perth Mint, include the Tokelau Mirror Dog, the second issue of this type after the mirror rooster, which has a view of two dogs looking at each other with one side in proof and one in reverse proof, the 5 oz Niue gilded dog coin produced by PAMP in Switzerland, the Rwanda dog coin, and the dog issue in the Royal Mint’s Lunar bullion series. 

MCM also has a few Year of the Rooster 2017 coins left, including one from the People’s Bank of China, a proof limited to 300,000 coins in its original packaging, Perth 1 oz silver coins from series I and II, a 5 oz colored piece from Macau limited to 2,000 coins, and a 5 oz silver coin from the Kingdom of Bhutan that is colorized on one side and limited to 1,000 coins.

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About The Author

Louis Golino Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.” He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and American Hard Assets. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He was previously a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.

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